Date-Sweetened Horchata

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Two glasses of Date Sweetened Horchata with cinnamon sticks as straws

It’s almost Cinco de Mayo! Yahoooooooooo!

Measuring cup of rice to represent our post on how to make horchata

Did you ever celebrate Cinco de Mayo growing up? Though I’m nearly full German and part Swedish, I did have the pleasure of celebrating this super fun holiday in many a Spanish class throughout my high school and college years. While I never fully understood some of the traditional cultural practices surrounding holidays like Dia de los Muertos, I totally got behind the celebration of Mexican heritage on May 5th. Plus, it was a great excuse to overindulge in horchata, pastries and grilled corn on a stick! Ay ay!

Cinnamon sticks and rice for making our homemade Cinnamon Horchata recipe

Straining Horchata through a cheesecloth to give it a smooth and creamy texture

The thing about horchata is, it’s incredibly sweet and usually loaded with sweetened condensed milk and refined sugar. But, health nuts should rejoice because you can still indulge in this refreshing summer beverage without going into a sugar coma thanks to one little healthy ingredient: dates.

Glasses and bottle of homemade Horchata

Rice and glasses of our Vegan Horchata recipe

Glasses of Healthy Horchata sweetened with dates

This horchata is very simple to make and requires just 5 ingredients, in true minimalist style. Not including the time it takes the rice to soak, it comes together in less than 20 minutes tops. And the result makes it so worth the effort. Creamy, 100% vegan horchata with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, and perfectly refreshing on a hot day.

Two glasses of homemade Horchata on a blue kitchen towel

I enjoyed my first glass over ice but fully intend on making a horchata cocktail out of the remaining batch. Watch out – boozy horchata inspirations are on their way! In the meantime, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Two glasses of delicious Date-Sweetened Horchata

Date-Sweetened Horchata

Dates replace sugar in this healthier version of homemade horchata. Hints of cinnamon and vanilla pop through in each sip - perfectly refreshing on a warm day.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Top down shot of two glasses of Date-Sweetened Horchata with cinnamon sticks as straws
4.6 from 10 votes
Prep Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 (3/4-cup servings)
Course Beverage
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 Month (as popsicles)
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice
  • 6 cups water (divided)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk (or sub light coconut or rice milk)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup pitted medjool or deglet noor dates (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick*

Instructions

  • Soak rice in 2 cups very hot (not boiling water) for 2 hours (amount as original recipe is written // use 1/3 of the total water if altering batch size). The rice should be soft but still very raw - you should be able to snap a piece in half with your fingernail without much effort. Drain and add to a blender.
  • Add 4 cups water (amount as original recipe is written // use 2/3 of the total water if altering batch size), dates, vanilla, and the cinnamon stick, top with lid and cover with a towel to ensure it doesn't splash. Blend for about 1 minute until the date specks are very small and the mixture seems well combined. It doesn't have to be 100% pulverized.
  • Scoop out a small sample with a spoon to test sweetness. If it's not sweet enough, add more dates (or honey if not vegan).
  • In two batches, pour the mixture over a bowl or pitcher covered with cheesecloth, a nut milk bag, very thin towel, or a clean t-shirt or clean pair of panty hose (a tip I learned from My New Roots). I wrapped a rubberband around my bowl to ensure it didn't come loose, but this isn't necessary.
  • Strain the mixture until only pulp remains in the cloth, squeezing to get every last drop out. It will take a little effort depending on how pulverized your pulp is. Rinse out cloth and set aside for washing.
  • Next, stir in almond milk (optional), whisk and transfer to mason jars or a large beverage container with a lid. Chill and serve over ice. Will keep in the fridge for several days.

Notes

*You can sub 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon for the 1 cinnamon stick.
*Nutrition is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 6 servings)

Serving: 1 three-quarter-cup servings Calories: 83 Carbohydrates: 19 g Protein: 1 g Fat: 1.5 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Fiber: 4 g Sugar: 12 g

Loosely adapted from howtocookmexicanfood

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  1. Em says

    Hello! New subscriber here. I’m excited to try some of the dairy-free milks, but first – I need a blender. I see you have “blender” linked to the Blend Tec, which is too much blender for me. Can you recommend any other? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Em, a high-speed blender works best (see our blender review here), but for a lower cost alternative, you could try something like a Nutribullet. Hope that helps!

  2. Brianna says

    So excited to try this! I use dates as sweetener a good bit, and I’ve found that soaking them in hot water for a few minutes helps to draw out the natural sugar so you can get more flavor by using less. I saw Frances’s comment about the recipe being too thick, so maybe I should try a batch first before I preach! Will give you an update. :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Jennifer, we haven’t tried that, but based on the sugar content, we would estimate about 1/3-1/2 cup. Let us know how it goes!

  3. laura says

    This stuff is really good! I used 11 medjool dates. Squeezing all the liquid out of the bag was labor-intensive, but the result tastes like the milk left over after Cinnamon Toast Crunch. :)

  4. Katie says

    I don’t see how it was offensive. She just said there were cultural practices she didn’t understand, which is true for most of us and some other culture somewhere. As a person of Hispanic heritage that spent some time living in Minnesota (very German/Swedish) there are some cultural practices I didn’t understand either. But that doesn’t make things offensive. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Paula says

    Made for the first time today after enjoying horchata at our fav Mexican restaurant. Rave reviews
    from our brunch guests!!

  6. dre says

    I just made this and it is totally yum! I uses a milk bag to strain, and it takes a bit more time than making nut milk, but it worked out :) thank you!

  7. Frances says

    LOVED this – had horchata for the first time today at Wahaca and resolved immediately to find a recipe, bit taken aback by sugar content so thought of looking for one using dates and hurrah! Super easy to make though the straining (through pantyhose as the tshirt was way too thick) was quite a lot of effort, but I think I have to blame myself for this, changing up the recipe rather than making exactly as written:
    – I blended it too long (over 6 minutes!) so the mix was too thick rather than chunky + liquid and didn’t separate easily.
    – I used half arborio and half basmati as I didn’t have plain long grain on hand – perhaps the arborio was too starchy and made mix thicker/mushier?
    – I soaked the dates in the water for the two hours the rice was soaking as I thought they’d blend better (having used dates a lot as sweetener in baking before) but I think this actually made them blend too much and thickened the mix past easy straining
    – I used only half the water, first in response to complaint above that it was too thin (easier to add it in than take it out, right?) then because I realised my food processor was too small so couldn’t add any more! I topped up later but the mix would have been twice as thick as intended when I first tried to strain, had I followed the recipe.
    SO! After all that detail – I’ll definitely make again, next time as written, and hopefully it will be a bit easier. It’s worth the effort :)
    Love that it’s such a sweet hit without any cane sugar, thank you for an amazing and healthy recipe.

    • Nanny J. says

      Someone shared some socially distanced white rice with me recently (porch dropoff), but I only eat brown rice. I knew right away that I would use it to make horchata. It’s one of my favorite things! I looked around online at various recipes and settled on this one. I followed the instructions and didn’t change anything except that I added the dates, ground cinnamon (didn’t have sticks), and vanilla after straining the rice milk. I have really fresh dates right now (Joolies), and my Vitamix grinds them up so well that they are not noticeable in finished liquids even without straining. I whipped up a mini batch of almond milk just for this recipe so that it would all be super fresh. Delicious! I’ve never had “traditional” dairy horchata, so I don’t know how this compares. For vegan horchata, I think the recipe works great. I’ll make this again! Thank you!!

  8. Dave says

    I tried this recipe and I tried just using regular rice milk. Tastes exactly the same either way, and no nasty additives either.

  9. sk says

    It didn’t come out well.The dates were not enough for sweetness and it was really thin.I would recommend adding either cashews or almonds and adding cnnamon at the soaking stage.Adding jaggery/honey instead of sugar may help.

  10. Linda Fujioka says

    LOVE Horchata! – just an idea I would like to share. While I am making this recipe for the first time (the rice is soaking as I type), I thought I could use my potato ricer lined w/ cheese cloth to strain the blended rice mixture. I also use the ricer to press the hard boiled yokes thru when making a deviled egg filling for the yokes come out very smooth & creamy. Since the ricer has been a good multi use item in my kitchen, why not for making this recipe?!
    Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  11. Jennifer S says

    I’ve been looking for a really great vegan, naturally sweetened horchata recipe! Can’t wait to try your recipe this weekend! Thanks for sharing!

  12. narf7 says

    Ok so we don’t tend to celebrate Cinco de Mayo much here in Tasmania but I am always up for a new celebration or two and this horchata looks like something most interesting. I am going to give it a go and might even attempt a Mexican hat dance on the deck in honour of the day. Tasmania, get ready for narf7 and Cinco de Mayo! “Ándele arriba!” (Cheers Google Translate ;) )

  13. Kathryn says

    Love that this uses dates – I could really do with one of those boozy horchatas right now!

  14. Julia says

    Yumm! The pictures look amazing! My father is obsessed with horchatas and I will have to make this one for him! :)

  15. Nicole says

    I never in a million years would have thought to make my own horchata. Now I think I will give it a go. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Katie says

    Horchata was my favorite drink EVER as a kiddo. We used to go to a mexican restaurant near our house JUST for the drink. I’m way excited about this recipe.

  17. Sarah Crowder says

    Perfect timing! I have horchata on my to-make list this weekend. Looking forward to the boozy options :) :) :)

  18. dixya| Food, Pleasure, and Health says

    I have never had horchata before nor celebrated Cinco de Mayo but I could totally drink it :) everything about it sounds so deliciousssss

  19. Kay Schonberg says

    Dana, which kind of date is the sweeter of the two that you mentioned? I would be curious about that for this and other recipes. I will try this recipe soon. Hmmm, maybe in 3 days! :-)

  20. Masha @ TheMashaUltimatum says

    I have always wanted to try Horchata but have always been scared to try it (ingredients sounded weird). These amazing pictures have convinced me to definitely make my own or at least order it from a restaurant next time. YUMMY! Super delicious!

  21. Ashley says

    This is like rice milk on steroids. Oh my word do I want this! I’ve never actually had horchata. Is that weird? Well done!

  22. Tieghan says

    I have never had hortchata, but it sounds really good. Your photos look awesome and make me really want to try it!

  23. Averie @ Averie Cooks says

    Gorgeous, Dana! I made horchata about a year ago on my blog and only a few times since…thanks for the reminder to make it again!